My daughter, Helena, has taken a new position at Denver University as director for the Bailey Program for Family Enterprise. It is a resource hub for family businesses and family offices.
Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with her and gain a deeper understanding of the issues faced by the people she is supporting.
One of the issues people in this field have to address is succession. Often, there are people of one generation in the family who have worked tirelessly to succeed and give their children a good life. They raise their children in the lap of luxury, and the children are not fully aware of all that their parents have done to provide the comfort they have enjoyed in their upbringing. And then, the children become adults and inherit their parents’ business and wealth. Perhaps they become trust fund babies. And perhaps they become subject to patterns of addiction. In that case, they are not in a good position to take over the family business. Inheriting the family wealth may not bring happiness.
It is true, in all kinds of ways, that we can have issues with those who came before us, no? And there can be misunderstanding, mistrust, and a break in the relationship between a person and their elders or forebears.
Those issues might relate to blood ancestors, especially parents. But there can be similar issues with spiritual ancestors—teachers, spiritual visionaries and guides, and respected counselors from our own life or from ages past.
We, as human beings, can struggle with our ancestors. And if you have huge emotional issues with your parents, it can mess up your life. The same is true of any blood ancestor you feel connected to, or any spiritual ancestor, whether it be Moses, Mohammed, Sai Baba, or the Buddha.
Coming to peace with one’s ancestors can be a liberating experience for anyone. It can assist a person to get on with their life.
For those of us who grow up in the context of Western culture, what do we do about Jesus? What do we do about the record of this man and the feelings we might have about him? There can be an attempt, in a religious context, to time-travel to be with him in his age; to peer into the past, imagine his teaching then, and to somehow try to resurrect his life journey in our own lives in an anachronistic way—perhaps relevant to his time but not ours. After all, we cannot jump into the past or impose the past on the present.
Just as with parents, we can have issues with spiritual ancestors, either from the recent past or long ago. Many times, that comes out of what their followers did to their teachings.
What happens with Jesus? Sometimes, people have antagonism towards him and Christianity because of the way his followers through the ages have manipulated the memory of him to their own advantage.
Any spiritual teacher can be rejected because of their human flaws, real or perceived. Does anyone have perfect spiritual teachers? They are very rare, just like perfect parents are rare. And how would you know exactly how perfect they were? We can ascribe perfection. Or imperfection. But do we really know? An enlightened person sees that human concepts of perfection are not the point when it comes to our ancestors.
The issues of succession are very real in the context of family businesses. They face the problems of the second generation of the family. How will they learn the same virtues of hard work, smarts, and initiative that launched the business in the first place and generated the family wealth? How is the next generation going to embrace and carry on their lineage? There is a lineage to be received—not just the wealth but the initiative, wisdom, and grit. And love.
How do any of us inherit our lineage in a way that is empowering? In a way that lets us manage our business, whatever that business might be, even the business of our life? And what stops a person from embracing their lineage in a way that empowers them?
There is a power to lineage for us each to receive. That is true at a personal level. And whether you study your family tree or find some other way to connect with your family lineage, it can be empowering.
The key is to receive what is true out of our lineage. The truth within our line is everlasting. It will come to you if you let it. The trick is to let all that is temporary and flawed from your lineage fade into the past while you receive the empowering truth at its core.
If you cannot receive your lineage because the people involved were not perfect, you are missing out on a great gift. That is how it is for many people. Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa were so old-fashioned! So flawed! So limited! They have nothing to give to me. So I have nothing of value to receive from them.
But there is power in the lineage. There is always something to be embraced. And some kind of natural purifying process transpires in our heart and mind, if we let it, so that we are not receiving whatever egoic factors there might have been or anything untrue. We are just receiving the pure essence of our ancestors, the truth of the lineage. We are not going back to get it or to live in the life circumstances they faced. That would be impossible. We are standing in the present and allowing the thrust of the creative urge within them to reach us. Then it can inspire us and be embraced by us, so we can be all of who we are meant to be.
These issues are relevant to us all and to anyone on the planet in whatever context. They are, in a particular way, relevant to Emissaries of Divine Light and Sunrise Ranch. We must have empowered, inspired Servers now to have a ministry and bring what we have to bring to the world.
That either matters to us, or it does not. It matters to me. And if it matters to you, how does the legacy of our lineage move into its destiny?
It does not happen because we somehow try to give the world our ancestors. Our world is not looking for our ancestors—they are looking for us. That is not to diminish our legacy or to say that we should never speak of our ancestors or present whatever they presented. But still, that is no substitute for you or me. As Emissaries of Divine Light, we happen to come from a lineage where the heroes of the story knew exactly that.
So here is how I, and others, see our lineage. Though it begins before him, let’s start with Jesus. He had an enlightened perspective on his Jewish lineage, and the lineage of the Children of Israel. What he said about that lineage was translated this way:
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets:
I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
You have heard… But I say to you…
What a beautiful way to handle lineage! No chucking away of Moses’ or Abraham’s teachings, or anything else those who came after them laid down—“the law, or the prophets,” as he put it. He allowed all that to come into him, and then he had a download in the present moment. He had a living teaching to bring. Do we have a living teaching to bring?
Uranda, the founder of Emissaries of Divine Light, was the same. He had the highest honor for what Jesus and those before him brought. He embraced his spiritual lineage. Yet he had courage like crazy to bring his brilliance, his gift.
As I trace my lineage and the lineage of Emissaries of Divine Light, I come to Martin Cecil, who was the same way. At some point, he told people to get their noses out of the volumes of our foundational writings, The Third Sacred School, which contain the essential writings of Uranda and Martin. Essentially, he said, Be with the living teaching. Be with what I am bringing now and bring it with me.
Like Martin, we honor the lineage, and we honor our literature, and there is a vital use for it. And still, this is a living teaching. It is not just something archived away in eighteen volumes.
Are we not here, if we are following in this lineage, to bring a living teaching, something alive? When we do, it is remarkable how our relationship with the past changes. We are not drawn to live in the past or attempt to resurrect the past in the present. It is as if time stands still, and in this eternal moment the heart of our ancestors rushes to greet us. It is right with us. The spirit of our ancestors is here now.
I had that experience with a recording of Uranda, and his wife at that time, Wanu, from 1939. Uranda was thirty-two years old, and apparently he had gotten hold of a 78 rpm wax recorder. As I listened to it, their hearts and their spirits leapt into me. I wasn’t going down memory lane. I let my lineage land into the present—not any flaws they might have had, real or imagined—only the pure spirit of their love and devotion.
It happens like that if we are letting this process work, whether we are talking about spiritual ancestors or blood ancestors.
This is not going back into the past. When we are present here and now and allow our spiritual ancestors to greet us where we are, a living teaching empowers us. When we have the courage to show up totally as ourselves in this moment, we connect with all living teaching—past, present, or future. We are the living teaching.
In discussions I have had with Emissary leaders over these past few days, I was saying that this might be a lot easier, at least in some ways, if this were a solo gig—if one of us was doing this by themselves. You would not have to worry about anyone but yourself. But we are doing something different. We are deeply harmonizing ourselves, standing in this present moment with the courage to bring the gift we have to bring as individuals. And then we are harmonizing with the people who are serving with us. We are in it together for real, bringing something vital to the world.
These are secrets of succession and lineage that tend to evade people around the world.